Long before Marvel Comic's Iron Man movie series came out, and before Iron Man's technological concepts in the comic pages even got a veneer of plausibility, long before anime became mainstream, I watched a lot of Mecha Anime, from Robotech to Appleseed. I just enjoyed the art style and the stories. But the design concepts and ideas put forth by those "cartoons" were way, way ahead of their time. And one of the biggest influences in my work, is from Bubblegum Crisis.
Bubblegum Crisis was a futuristic, bladerunneresque, cyberpunk series long before the concept of cyberpunk gained traction. That show gave me the concept of the human body sensor suit back in the 1980's. The series never defined what exactly went into the suit, but I took that science fiction anime visionary concept, and ran like a bat out of hell with it.
Since I'm a visual person, I work a lot better with pictures. I'm also a sketch artist, so as usual, I went to my sketch book, coloring pencils and paints, and this is what I came up with.
The Full Body Human Machine Interface
This is my grand vision for this concept. It's a unified, integrated, wearable body sensor suite that's unintrusive, and you can use it for controlling robots, VR, etc. It should record and replicate digitally the entire body's motions, forces, and physical parameters.
The Artificial Neural Network is what makes the suit "smart." The problem with technologies like SEMG, or IMU's, or accelerometers is that just by themselves, they're not going to give you an overall picture of what the body is doing when it's in movement or applying a force.
Take SEMG for example. All SEMG does is measure the amount of innervation/contraction activity that your muscles are doing. Notice I didn't say movement. Ever done isometrics? Bruce Lee was a great proponent of isometrics.
Isometrics is where you hold the limb or muscle in place, and contract the hell out of the muscle, without actually moving. Bruce Lee's one of the biggest role models of my life. If you ever read his biography, he's probably one of the first documented proponents of a high tech approach to combat conditioning.
Anyway, you can fool an SEMG sensor into believing that you're contracting the muscle and interpret that as "movement." Hell, you can fool many sensors into believing that you're moving in certain ways. But once you've got a suite of sensors, with some learning ability embedded in them, you can get a far more accurate picture of what your body is doing.
Incorporating an Artificial Neural Network, and an array of sensors as a suit from the get go with a robotic operating system is a bit much to bite in the beginning. So, I scaled it down to something that I figured "should" be much more manageable for the near term.
The system as a whole is a networked, decentralized, sensory platform. It's a lot like your spinal neural system, which operates off of reflex. Everything you feel, physical perception, to limb and skeletal muscular movement, to reflex, even autonomous movement internally, emanates from your spinal cord.
The end result of all this technobabble, the great vision, is to build a wearable, synthetic spinal neural network that senses your body's motion, physical condition, and muscles, and make that information useful for digital control of devices.
Hardware Startup School of Hard Knocks - Lesson 1
The hard part in all of this wasn't the technical part. The hard part, is finding the right people and the right advice.
At the time, (2011) I should've gone with my very first instinct, which was to immediately start laying out the design, and manufacturing the pod for sale to interested people. I told my partner at the time that what I wanted to do was to make the pod as is, and start selling it at conventions, meetups, shoot, I'd sell it on the street from a White Van if I had to. - Side note, I was one of those saps who actually bought a set of speakers from two dudes in a White Van. Supposedly, it was one of those 90's/early 2000's...
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